Electric Cottage a thoroughly modern playhouse

Duluth News Tribune
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Miller Dwan Foundation Playhouses 0001
Electric Cottage designed by Jim Gregory and Rebecca Lewis of DSGW Architects. Photo by Jeff Frey.

It sounds like the kind of place where Jimi Hendrix might’ve taken his summer vacations, but it’s actually something quite different.

“The Electric Cottage” is the name given to the latest custom-made playhouse to be created for the Miller-Dwan Foundation’s annual ARTcetera auction. This year is the event’s 15th anniversary, and those involved with the structure’s design and construction are convinced they’ve come up with their best contribution yet.

“We’ve auctioned several different playhouses or cottages over the years, and they have all had their own unique design or theme,” said Traci Marciniak, president of the Miller-Dwan Foundation. “The Electric Cottage is special because it has a very modern design and is built with sustainable materials. It has integrated technology, so you can connect to all of your favorite social media and entertainment sites. There is also a 50-inch flat-screen television, bunks and fun furniture.”

“Each year, we try and think of something new and interesting that would catch the interest of the community,” said Rebecca Lewis, an architect with DSGW Architects, who designed the cottage.

“Because, ultimately, it is to attract attention to the event, and to help provide funds for some of the fantastic programs that are supported by the foundation.”

This is the seventh year that a playhouse has been among the live auction items at ARTcetera. They typically go for between $15,000 and $25,000.

“The aim of the Electric Cottage was complete integration of modern materials, technology and programs into one multifunctional space,” said Jim Gregory, intern architect at DSGW. “Why bring your smartphone to the cottage when your cottage is a smartphone?”

Gregory said that the playhouse was designed with an electronic charging station and cable integration as well — all the better to accommodate the interests of modern kids.

The ARTcetera fundraising gala, which is taking place this year on Sept. 28 at the DECC Harbor Side ballroom, has had a big impact on the area, according to Marciniak.

“Over the past 15 years, ARTcetera has raised a net of more than $2.5 million and supported several Miller-Dwan Foundation initiatives that have transformed health care in our region,” she said. “Countless lives have been touched by the creation of Amberwing Center for Youth & Family Well-Being, Solvay Hospice House, the Caring Ways Cancer Resource Center and other care programs. Proceeds from this year’s event will guarantee that those past projects will continue to flourish, and that pressing health-care needs will be met well into the future.”

This suits Sharon Scheidel, who works for Loll Designs, a Duluth-based furniture-design company. In the past, they’ve donated benches and lounge chairs, but this year, they’ve contributed a rocking chair called the Rapson Rocker. She says that Loll is committed to helping others through their work.

“Our focus for donations has always been to support our local community as we can,” Scheidel said. “It definitely reflects our company mission.”

Local carpenters and interior designers were also heavily involved with the building of the cottage. “It’s really a team effort,” Lewis said.

The 12-by-12-foot Electric Cottage is currently situated outside of Essentia Health’s Miller-Dwan building, 502 E. Second St., for easy viewing.

Bidders can get in on the auction by showing up to the gala in person, or by submitting absentee bids by the morning of Sept. 27